Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.
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On Monday, Oak Creek Police Chief Russ Caterinicchio announced he had concluded his internal investigation of the arrest and tasing of former town Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman by Sgt. Erik Foster. And - no surprise here - the chief agrees with himself.
On July 20, one day after Ms. Rodeman's arrest, the chief told the Steamboat Pilot & Today, "I have no reason to believe the actions that were taken were not appropriate."
On Monday, the chief announced he is "confident nothing inappropriate" occurred during the arrest of Rodeman. If prizes were awarded for predetermined outcomes to internal investigations conducted by rookie police chiefs with no meaningful police internal investigative experience, Chief Caterinicchio certainly would win.
The chief's prior police experience is limited to less than three years as a reserve officer with the Lone Tree Police Department. Yesterday, when I spoke with Lone Tree Police Chief Hasler's assistant, Chris Liley-Hudler, she recalled Chief Caterinicchio as having worked "in our records division" before becoming a reserve officer who assisted other full-time officers.
Although that background might qualify a reserve officer to become a full-time probationary officer in many police departments, it does not magically transform a novice officer into a seasoned investigator or police chief.
Furthermore, Chief Caterinicchio's behavior - along with that of Sgt. Foster - should be subject to investigation by a qualified investigator, to provide answers to an ever-growing list of questions.
Why did Chief Caterinicchio fail to answer repeated calls from Routt County Communications requesting him to back up Sgt. Foster?
Has Chief Caterinicchio explicitly or implicitly instituted a policy of targeting the Colorado Bar & Grill because it is owned by Mayor J. Elliott, who sought to disband the police department?
Why did Sgt. Foster erroneously report that he was in danger of attack by five people and, knowing other officers were risking their lives driving at exceptionally high speeds to assist him, not correct that erroneous information?
Perhaps the most troubling question concerning Chief Caterinicchio is whether he possesses the temperament necessary to be an effective police chief in a small rural town.
On July 24, while attending a meeting of the Oak Creek Town Board, I witnessed firsthand the contempt the chief displays for those he disagrees with - citizens and elected officials alike.
During the meeting, the chief snapped at and interrupted Police Commissioner Dave Ege mid-sentence as the commissioner stated he thought the chief had threatened him during a phone call. The chief was rude and dismissive toward Commissioner Ege, showing a complete lack of respect for an elected official with oversight authority.
Just minutes earlier in the meeting, the chief demonstrated his utter disdain for a resident of Oak Creek, Eric Bowman, who was concerned about the use of Tasers. By intentionally and deliberately burying his nose in a police magazine instead of respectfully listening to the public comment of Mr. Bowman, the chief signaled to all attending the meeting that Mr. Bowman was not worthy of the chief's attention.
Later, during a break in the meeting, when Mr. Bowman attempted to discuss the issue of Tasers directly with the chief, the chief just kept repeating the word "preposterous" with an air of condescension.
The chief seems to think he is always the smartest man in the room and that those who disagree with him or question his policies are to be disregarded. This behavior raises serious questions about whether the chief has the temperament, disposition and overall psychological underpinnings to deal with the requirements and rigors of police work.
The residents of Oak Creek should question why some members of the Oak Creek Town Board seem content to allow Chief Caterinicchio to run roughshod over their authority and oversight responsibility.
If, as some citizens think, certain members of the Town Board are looking the other way while the chief targets their political opponents, Oak Creek has more serious problems than are already apparent.
At this point, the only appropriate remedy is for the Town Board to initiate an outside investigation of the Rodeman arrest and of the Oak Creek Police Department's management.
But, unless more residents of Oak Creek step forward and demand the board exercise appropriate oversight, nothing will change.
- To reach Rob Douglas, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.